It’s amazing this internet age, one goes to bed convinced that they have taken in all the madness that can possibly be dished out by this constantly rotating world. You grasp at a few hours of sleep, often peppered with thoughts of how you are going to handle some of the information that has come your way in the course of the day, then the new day steps in and you realize that you have not indeed seen it all.
That was the reaction that must have greeted a lot of filmmakers in Nigeria’s film industry yesterday, when they woke up to sudden widespread discussions about a 49 page document known as the Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) bill.
As new as the discussions centering this issue may be, it may surprise some to discover that the MOPICON bill was proposed 10 full years ago and by way of a quick, probably insufficient description, it is a bill that proposes a regulation of Nollywood in order to purportedly ‘ensure quality’. That isn’t such a bad thing right? Well you would be wrong in assuming that according to some of the reactions of a couple of the people who should know best (Nigerian filmmakers) and we will go ahead to define the anger for you.
Years after veterans in Nollywood have toiled to build the industry up to a point where a grudging admiration is afforded it, years after new talents have sprung up from different corners, pumping even more life to the industry. Long after better technical know-how began to be married with promising storytelling and it seemed to everyone that some of the potential in Nollywood was about to be realized; all this without much direct influence from the government, here comes the MOPICON bill that practically hands the power over to them.
Now, that may be putting the issue quite dramatically, but it’s only in a bid to avoid being long-winded and what else really can be expected from a bill that states the functions of it’s members on the first page of the 49 page document as being charged with the duty of;
(a) determining who are Motion Picture Practitioners
(b) determining what standards of knowledge and skills are to be attained by persons seeking to become registered as Motion Picture Practitioners and reviewing those standards from time to time;
(c) securing in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the establishment and maintenance of a register of persons entitled to practice as professionals in the motion picture industry, and the publication, from time to time, of lists of those persons…
That is only the beginning of determinations by what will be an esteemed council with a proposed first stream of income coming from the Nigerian government. Sure, the document lists other streams of income inclusive of monies required by the council from registered guilds and associations but they do not paint a much brighter picture. Most of the filmmakers who have reacted to the proposed MOPICON bill have rightly pointed out it’s threat to creativity, it’s introduction of higher bureaucracy and the fact that it makes more sense to strengthen the regulators already on ground in the industry, rather than creating a council to regulate the regulators and everyone else.
April 8 is the date chosen for the inauguration of the ministerial committee which will draw members from various guilds and associations and obviously all Nollywood filmmakers will have to organize and strategize to bring out the best of whatever side of the argument they align with, but a petition against the bill has already been launched. If you have ever watched a Nollywood creation and appreciated the effort put in by individual, for the most part, unsupported, random filmmakers (the type of people that this bill may stifle) you can sign the petition here.